Astronomers have made an exciting discovery: researchers led by the Harvard-Smithsonian Astronomical Center (CfA) in Cambridge (USA) have succeeded for the first time in locating a planet in a galaxy other than our own Milky Way: once using a new scale, they discovered it “Vxy5 (Messier 51) – About 28 million light years away!
In an interview with BILD, Ulrich Köhler, a planetary geologist at the German Space Center (DLR), explains how scientists achieved this – and what it means.
“Until now, planets have only been found in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Now 4000. But it has always been thought that there are planets naturally in neighboring or more distant galaxies orbiting stars like our Earth Sun. Finding them is always the only problem – but it has now been achieved.
Over the years, according to Kohler, they began to study the stars in our nearest galaxy, M51 – and M101 and M104 – for a total of 238 systems.
So now progress is being made with the M51 – two X-ray telescopes, with the help of NASA’s lunar laboratory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space telescope. They orbit the Earth in a vast ellipse at distances ranging from 20,000 to 129,000 kilometers.
New approach of researchers
“If a planet passes a star in its orbit, there is a small drop in light – this is measured up to 0.01 percent of our galaxy,” says Kohler. Problem: This method cannot be used with other distant galaxies.
In the case of M51, the researchers observed a binary star structure with a neutron star or black hole (a bright light in the description). It first removes gases permanently from the second, significantly larger star (light blue in the description), which heats up much in the process. X-rays are emitted, which – unlike light – are short-wavelength and high-energy, thus enabling greater clarity. This can be measured over long distances.
“As the planet passes by, the vision of this constant gas flow briefly weakens, which is called a ‘dip’ in the measurement curve. Researchers have now succeeded in proving these recurring weaknesses. The planet in the matter, ”says Kohler.
What is the significance of the invention?
“The goal of astronomers is to find out why there is life and water on Earth – is it unique to us? There are 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone,” says Kohler. The year is about 10 trillion kilometers. But billions of galaxies are still far away and life may have formed. However, they are never accessible to humans because the drive system is inadequate. “
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